Apple has discarded its vision, but that's okay.
It cannot be denied that Apple’s showing today was jam-packed with new products, in terms of sheer number of products announced, 2012 is already Apple’s most saturated year ever, seeing the announcement of the iPad 3 ,OS X Mountain Lion, iOS 6, MacBook Pro with Retina Display, iPhone 5, next generation Mac mini, next generation iMac, iPad mini, and iPad 4. Announcing products like no there’s no tomorrow, Tim Cook may actually hold faith in the forthcoming Myan prophecy.
However, where 2012 leads in volume, it lacks in ambition. First let’s group this years announcements by category and sub-categorize them in terms of subjective importance. The italicized I consider to be of particular note:
Apple's Major 2012 Announcements:
MacBook Pro with Retina Display
iPod Touch 5G
iPod Nano 7G
<quote class="pullquote">In terms of sheer number of products announced, 2012 is already Apple’s most saturated year ever</quote>
There are two common threads linking the vision of the 2012 Apple suite, the two components of Apple’s unique adroitness. The first is Apple’s immaculate record of unerring build quality and the continually radical engineering accomplishments that make them up. Samsung touts the stone like nature of the S3 but it’s the iPhone 5 that feels like a finely cut and polished sapphire. There’s no obvious reason the Retina display MacBook Pro should demonstrate better overall performance than Sony’s top of the line Vaio Z while also pushing 150% more pixels but it does. This is the palpable part of Apple magic, it doesn't need to be explained in great detail because it’s quite clearly there; the technological performance and improbably compact designs the masses didn’t realize were possible until it happened, at no point should a faster performance or a thinner body be dismissed.
<quote class="pullquote">At no point should a faster performance or a thinner body be dismissed.</quote>
The second component of Apple as we know them, the part that’s near allegorical, are the creative ways in which its boundary pushing hardware is utilized, the common buzzword for this manifestation is innovation. In 2011 Apple brought forth a comprehensive method of synching across multiple devices, creating an unified ecosystem that worked like the future should(remember, Google didn’t have a proper tablet in 2011) along with OSX Lion, through which, if you look closely enough, Apple has detailed the coming fortune of the fastest selling computer line in the world. While Lion was not OSXI, it made clear Apple’s commitment to push OSX forward and avoid the kind of blind stagnation that has forced Microsoft to estrange itself from, quite actually, their entire primary consumer base, businesses and everyday professionals, by jamming over 5 years of missed opportunity into one major release. We witnessed similar pensive thinking from Apple with iPhone 4 and iPad in 2010, MacBook Air in 2008, and iPhone in 2007.
Apple made a phone, but it wasn't predictable
So what inconceivable new fauna can be seen grazing in Apple’s herd of new borns this year? Between eleven new products, there must be one, right?
But there is not. That isn’t to say Apple’s products haven’t gone untouched, iPod Touch and iMac, in fact, over went radical changes this year, but this is particularly anecdotal not in showcasing Apple’s commitment to innovation but rather their recent inhibitions to it; these two products, while still profitable, are two number one devices in two non-competitive markets that shareholders and bleeding edge consumers aren’t paying much attention to. Apple takes its largest creative liberties, it would seem, in its least competitive product categories. This is not the same company the took the hugely successful iPod Nano and released a silk white usb stick as a followup, nor the company that succeeded the best selling smartphone design of 2008 through 2009 with a flat slab made out of 2 pieces of glass and a metal band, then taught you how to hold it.
Remember when this thing leaked? Radical.
<quote class="pullquote">Apple takes its largest creative liberties, it would seem, in its least competitive product categories</quote>
Let's take a moment to compare Atenna-Gate to Map-Gate.
In the first case, Apple did something intrepid and flawed yet brilliant and when the media pushed, they pushed back. In the latter, Apple attempted to re-create a competing and perfectly workable service, came up short in almost all respects and humbly apologized when told it wasn’t good enough.
Of course, the Apple that simultaneously domineered and amazed its loyalists and the media is not gone, what we’re witnessing is more akin to a cumbersome puberty. Consider Apple’s proliferation into the mainstream analogous to a deepening of its voice. Apple, the sophomore in high school, commands more power and clout than ever and is now delicately attempting to embrace his new found popularity without abandoning his middle school friends(his elementary school pals are long gone).
This somewhat awkward duality is represented most profoundly in the iPad line. When the original iPad was first announced, Apple called it "the best web surfing, email, photo and video experience", adding "With a screen this large, you can just see more of the web" and "You can see all of the top stories".
"This defines our vision, or sense of what’s next"
So it's like, designed specifically to balance on the human lap?
Remember "magic"? This was delivered with conviction and backed up with calculations(valid or not). 9.7 to 10.1 became the new de facto range for tablets not only because Apple said so but because Apple said so and then explained why it was. 'Of course I need to see the full internet' , we thought, 'that’s what makes sense'.
The iPad is literally a large iPod Touch, but functionally it is not. The iPad mini is literally a smaller iPad, and that’s what it is functionally, too, according to Apple at least.
Watching the product video, Apple quickly brushed over the new diminutive size, the only benefit touted being the mini’s supposed one-handed use and even this aspect is framed as a minor convenience to the inevitably of a 7.9 inch tablet. One that will be used in "so many different ways", not a single one of which was detailed because Apple doesn’t know and maybe they don't care, what they do know is that people will buy it, giving the company a strong foothold in a booming sub-market.
<quote class="pullquote">The original iPad, as framed by Apple, is about the means to an the end of creating the best possible media consumption device, the iPad mini, also as framed by Apple, is about the means to an end of creating a 7.9 inch tablet</quote>
This, by the way, is a terrific ad (I was getting a little worried after the jaded pretentiousness that permeated the iPhone ads).
The original iPad, as framed by Apple, is about the means to an the end of creating the best possible media consumption device, the iPad mini, also as framed by Apple, is about the means to an end of creating a 7.9inch tablet, or rather, a Nexus 7 competitor, an apt summary of Apple's 2012 output.
But that isn’t so bad, look out for my explanation of why in a follow-up post.